A thriving pub-cum-restaurant in an affluent corner of south-west London near Wimbledon tennis club … It was a no-brainer adding a smart hotel to the set-up here.
Before the arrival of the London and South Western railway, Wimbledon was all up the hill – in what is now Wimbledon Village – and so were the best pubs. Young’s Brewery, founded in 1831, took over the Dog & Fox a few years later to exploit the passing stagecoach traffic, much of it bound for Portsmouth. It must have been a busy, manure-perfumed place back then. Now, guests at the 17-room hotel, which opened early this summer, are greeted by a friendly receptionist in a small but smart lobby that opens in to a very spacious pub-cum-restaurant. Upstairs, staff flats have been turned into bedrooms of varying sizes, from the Fox suite, which takes up the whole of a curving corner, to pokier but quieter ones at the back.
Decorated in bold, warm colours and a mix of rescued and bespoke furniture, it’s on a country lodge theme – tartan here, houndstooth carpet there, statues of horses and beagles, faux fur throws …
The Fox suite has a huge bed and behind it a large sepia-tinged photo of nearby woods. Two floral armchairs are ideal for relaxing, but when buses go past, the upper deck passengers can look right in – leave the curtains open in the morning and they’ll see you in bed. But it’s probably the most interesting of the rooms, with an in-room roll-top bath. The Skylight suite is also fun – with a more discreet frosted, stained window behind its own deep bath. All rooms have power showers, Nespresso coffee-makers, Tea Pigs teas, flatscreen TV and DAB radio.
The Dog & Fox is the first pub you come to if you are heading into Wimbledon from the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. It is also in the heart of one of the richest pockets of real estate in western Europe. So it’s a thriving place, popular with tourists, locals and tennis fans. When the hotel opened, head chef Keith Stewart – who has been here eight years – didn’t need to do a whole lot to the pub food menu. Burgers remain top sellers but Aberdeen Angus fillet and, especially, ribeye steaks are excellent, as are snacks of Brixham crab and sardines, and brownies.
When all the tables are out, there are 220 covers so it can feel busy, but there are enough siderooms and separators to get a quiet corner, and some lovely window seats – ask for one when booking. Breakfast is in the same place and while the fruit and pastries are somewhat below par (there are fancy delis and cafés all over the village if you prefer breakfast out), the full English is outstanding, thanks to good bacon and delicious homemade tomatoey “Boston” beans. All the Young’s ales are there, plus some well-chosen if pricey wines, and Pimms – on tap, obviously.